Monday, April 5, 2021

Back in the Saddle

I’m back in the saddle again.

A short warm up run

To start the work week.


I huff and I plod along,

Enjoying the green buds and the birds’ chirp,

The start of spring.


I think about how I felt in NYC,

A lean, mean marathon machine.

That was a long time ago.


I may be out of shape, 

But my mind is stronger than my body.

Stronger than when I started this quest.

I’ve grown.




Sunday, March 21, 2021

My Thank You Letter to my Body

 After reading Lose Weight with Ang’s beautiful thank you note to her body, I felt compelled to write one of my own.  It has been a rough year, and my body has taken a back seat to my mind, a theme that needs to change as my 50th birthday looms in the near future.  I hope you appreciate, and I hope you are inspired to write a thank you note to your body!

Enjoy!

PR Performance! October, 2018


Dear body,

Thank you for being so strong and healthy. 

It didn’t start that way.  The danger of the umbilical cord wrapped around my neck made my birth scary for a first-time mother and landed me in the high-risk nursery for the first week of my life.  That week was the last time I spent the night in the hospital, thanks to your strength and health.

I would need that strength and health of body, because my mind was often too broken to properly take care of you.  A mind that refused to eat at an age when food was needed to grow.  A mind driven to submit to hour after hour of training in order to excel in running and figure skating, despite having no natural talent or gifts.  A mind that insists on endless showers and hand washings.  A mind needing to be beaten into submission as the outside world triggered it into chaos.

You have been my rock, my pillar.  No matter what damage I inflicted upon you, you kept getting up, kept living, kept surviving.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been a year and a half since you put on a show, negative splitting the last five miles of the New York Marathon and finishing under five hours.  I was a lean, mean, running machine, and the future loomed bright.  There were so many things I could do for you to make you even stronger, even faster, even more beautiful.

But my mind was still healing from another breakdown, one that ended my job and my relationship that year.  Marathon training had to be put on hold as I struggled to stay ahead of the bills.

Again, you rose to the occasion, allowing me to take on several physically intensive jobs that required being in top shape.  As a global pandemic of an unknown virus shut down the world, your immune system kept me from succumbing to disease, allowing me to shuffle and adapt as furloughs loomed.

It was a glance in the mirror on a warm July afternoon that I noticed the damage I had inflicted upon you.  My face, always a source of pride, looked crooked.  My angled jaw was now rounded and chubby.  I looked at my body, the lithe sinew that traveled across the five boroughs of New York City, atrophied into a fluffy marshmallow.

My mind broke again, fearing everything from a possible stroke to a horrible disease.  It was in this fear that I realized how much I had taken your strength and health for granted, how many times I had skipped the basic checkups and maintenance, the things I had done to hurt you instead of care for you.  Inside of a world that could not return to normal and hours of isolation, my mind went into a tailspin, sliding down a spiral of self-pity and self-abuse instead of giving you the love and caring you deserved.

By the time I finally made it to the dentist and the doctor, I learned that once again, you had risen to the occasion.  No cavities, no major health issues, and no serious illnesses.  You gave me the gift of being able to heal my mental illnesses without having to battle physical ones as well.  I cannot thank you enough for that.

It is why I end this letter with a promise.  I promise to care for you, to treat you with love, to do everything in my power to nourish the strength and health you have given me all these years so that we can have many, many more years to come.

With Love,

Erin

 

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Monster

 Something doesn’t feel right.

One little thing,

Shoved dramatically out of place,

One micron.

 

I can’t get it out of my mind,

The imperfection, the missing piece.

The stress builds in me,

As I cannot seem to correct the flaw.

 

My mind starts accelerating,

Faster than a Porsche.

Anxiety to panic,

Anger to rage.

 

I’ve become a demon,

A troll,

A fire breathing dragon,

A combination of all three.

 

The rage blinds my mind.

Maim! Hurt! Kill! Destroy!

The circuits have overloaded,

The fuses, blown.

 

Punishment is metered out,

To excise my internal pain.

For what I did wrong,

To cause the entire mess.

 

Then as fast as a Thanos snap,

The monster vanishes.

My mind is eerily quiet,

And full of dust.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Time Loop

Scrub, scrub, scrub, 
Never good enough
I’m stuck in a time loop
Of endless handwashing

Touch the faucet 

Scrub, scrub, scrub again


Touch the soap dish

Scrub, scrub, scrub again


Water too hot

Go to the other bathroom 

Scrub, scrub, scrub again


Take three steps from the sink

Have to turn around and 

Scrub, scrub, scrub again


Forget where I was going

What I was doing

Repeat from the beginning

Scrub, scrub, scrub all over


Wash all the dirt off my hands

And my mind

Clear my brain to focus

On the task ahead


I can’t stop until I’m ready

I’m perfect.


Or the idea of having unclean hands 

Slithers around my head

A poisonous snake.


While I’m washing and clearing my mind,

Time ticks on

Aggressively,

Relentlessly.

I have nothing to show for my hard work

But clean hands.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Hamster Wheels and Rabbit Holes

Nine years ago, reeling from having the rug pulled out from under me, I entered a therapist’s office and asked, “what is wrong with me?”

The same question everyone around me has been asking for decades.

After years of sorting through my life, there was a diagnosis:  Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  The symptoms were there—fear of contamination, handwashing, checking things over and over again—but every time I tried to challenge those compulsions, my head filled not with fear, but rage.

Recently, I discovered the reason why treatment wasn’t working.  I don’t have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  I have the rarer and difficult to diagnose Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder. 

You know you hit the right disorder…when you read the description and are flooded with memories that completely match the symptoms.  It’s a relief to finally, finally have the right name for all this discomfort.

Then you realize you have a personality disorder.  Like, my personality is so far from normal that it’s “disordered.”  Time to resurrect that exceptional people book club, huh?

A man who turned his ALS diagnosis into great things...so why can't I?

Less than a week earlier, in response to a birthday text where a friend asked me how I was doing, I replied, “stuck on hamster wheels and lost down rabbit holes.”  Ironically, it’s a great description of what living with OCPD is like.

I feel like I’m on a hamster wheel, working so very hard to get things accomplished and checked off the list, but by the end of the day, having little to show for my efforts.  Even in these times, when the minutes drag by like hours, the days like weeks, and the months like years….the to do list seems to be growing instead of shrinking.  (Don’t ask about the bank account.  Spoiler alert:  it’s not growing nearly as fast.)

With OCPD, the organization and procedure for each task is detailed and precise.  Every step in the process has to be carefully thought out and planned.  If my brain even has one molecule of anxiety, I have to walk away and calm myself down.  And if the task isn’t done perfectly, I have to start from the beginning and redo it until it is perfect.

I probably look just like that hamster, expending all that energy with no forward progression. 


Pretty much my entire life....via GIPHY

Probably because I’m constantly getting stuck in rabbit holes I dug for myself.  You know when you put one thing away in the junk drawer, which leads you to organize the junk drawer, where you find that button that popped off a shirt a couple weeks ago, which leads you to find the shirt to sew the button, which leads to doing a load of laundry?  Rabbit hole. 

Well, I tend to dig a lot of them, and then proceed to get lost wandering around the resulting maze of tunnels.  It starts innocently enough with one task, like putting an item away in a drawer, but then I notice that the drawer needs to be cleaned.  As I’m taking out one item from the drawer to clean it, I notice it belongs in another room, but that space needs to be decontaminated before anything can go into there.  I start making a list of how to clean that space, and well, now that first item won’t get put away until I get that list completed.

Of course, life is what gets in the way of plans, and before I can finish that list, I have to sort the mail for an important document or clean out the car or get the laundry room ready for the possibility of something breaking and needing repair….

As I’m trying to fill up one rabbit hole, another dozen or so appear.  

At least, I keep thinking I do...

For years, I believed the issue was that I was lazy or disorganized or, dare I say it, stupid, to figure out how to function like a normal person.  I’ve spent a lot of time trying to fight my brain, which always wins, but now it’s time to figure out a life that works for how I’m wired.

It’s time to step off the hamster wheels and come out of the rabbit holes….and start writing the first chapter of the rest of my life.